Monday, May 9, 2016

Alice in Shipland: Just Around the Riverbend

 Only one more cruise separates me from a stint on land, and oh, do we all feel it.

As I alluded to last post, at the end of last week I was riddled with anxiety about my future. Sunday morning the forecast was rain so I couldn’t even do my weekly early morning walk around the deck. I felt like a pony the stable boy had forgotten to let out. At 9 AM I practically exploded off the ship, rain jacket and baseball cap packed in my knapsack. Since I didn’t have much internet to do it was time to get some bucket list items taken care of. I sat by myself in Café Du Monde and felt immediately better listening to street corner jazz and inhaling puffs of powdered sugar. After finishing my café au lait I trotted down to the French Open Market where I spied all the knick knacks and bought myself a void-filling souvenir t-shirt. Peace filled by body toes up. Grey clouds camped above The Big Easy, but I was smiling. I bought the essentials at Walgreens. I smacked on a free sample of candied praline. And then, I went to a mystic shop that’s been in business since 1912 to get my tea leaves read.

My medium said some things—at times eerie and other times improbable, but the experience of sloshing the tea, sitting in the curtained creepy room, and holy cow, hearing thunder boom while a woman with frizzy hair and purple eyeliner said certainly what lay ahead? A priceless NOLA experience. I bustled along singing like Don Lockwood through voodoo doll gift shops and cobblestone. Right before embark I got a kale smoothie and some buttermilk drops to consume in my little dungeon. This would be a good week I decided. ZPill asked me later if he thought the physic could actually tell my fortune, and I said I don’t think so. I think she can just read pieces of what’s already inside me. How exciting that there is a universe in there. And I am not at the will of much besides what I choose.

Instead of my typical Cozumel day I took a ferry to Playa del Carmen—a ritzier Mexican tourist town. It was very clean and pretty and crystalline. I avoided everyone and listened to the playlist I made for the improv tournament my team traveled to in 2012. ZPill and I found a fancy as heck breakfast spot in a plaza. Donuts on pretty plates and tiny colanders of yogurt. Dudes at stands usually call out to those of us who are obvious tourists (white people) and usually I ignore them, but this particular guy was pointing at pictures of caves. And Adventure Alice was awakened. Next thing I know I’m alone in a cab headed to underwater caves.

They were incredible and all of my castmates who didn’t go because they thought $50 was much too much are idiots. When my little pod of eight people came to the first entrance I didn’t even see that we were about to step into water. Because the water was so glasslike it looked like it didn’t even exist. Oh but we did step in. In lifejackets we floated around the cavern. I spent most of my time shining my flashlight up to see the hoards of bats all snuggling with each other then periodically getting annoyed with my beam and fluttering about.

It was such a once in a lifetime experience to swim down a cool ancient pool and peer into an abyss of stalagmites. Sometimes we had to swim in very narrow little passages and our guide once asked us to sit perfectly still and turn off all our lights. It was the darkest dark. My favorite part was when our guide called us into a creepy crevice one at a time, had us put on our masks, and then he pushed our shoulders underwater so we could see the endless trail of underground cave. What was air and what was I swimming in and what was forming above? It was so hard to tell. The very last thing I did was take off my life jacket and swan dive into the deepest hole of the murky pool. Just another day at work!

I crossed West End off my Honduras bucket list. I got lost on my way to the beach and had to settle not to snorkel with friends but instead to journal alone with a frozen lemonade. I drank it out of pure desperation from wandering around in a near-hallucinatory heat state. Not all was lost. I found a sour cream chocolate donut. The chocolate was made in-house. I’m not mad. Things I am kind of over: laying too long in the sun, people having drunken conversations with me, not having the ability to text. Also, MB got 110 bug bites on the beach I was supposed to, so sometimes it ain’t bad to never arrive.

One thing I noticed this week is Twitter is too overwhelming for me. I barely look at it because I use precious online minutes to email pretty exclusively. Occasionally in a café with endless Internet powers I Instagram. But Twitter is so much so quickly. After twenty seconds of scrolling my brain is on fire. My attention span has increased significantly. I stand on the deck, facing forward with lips locked for forty minutes of crew drill. I get writer’s block on a deck chair, close my notebook, and have no other option but to watch waves. No commercials in pirated TV, no advertisements in my “commute.”

Three comedians is a treacherous number. Three creates an audience or a team, and it’s becoming something I actively avoid. In real life I can hack most anything because eventually I go home. But this is home. Person A jokes, Person B is annoyed, but Person C laughs. A and C never drop it. I have played all three parts and none are fun.

Instead of going to Belize I parked in the atrium next to the bar that also serves, like, four espresso drinks. This is the closest thing to having a café workday on the boat. I poked at my screenplays. I watched Thelma and Louise and was inspired to break some rules. So, my new thing is getting a plate of cheese cubes at lunch, shoving them in a mug, stuffing the mug in my backpack, and smuggling the cheese back to my mini fridge. Real outlaw.

During the 9 PM sketch show my brain exploded. I started a whisper as the show started and realized my mic was live and very hot. The top of our act began with a weird hiss. “Oh man, don’t screw up again,” I thought and twenty minutes later I missed a chair set. I just forget where we were in the running order and froze. “Okay, for real no more screw ups!” I lectured my own brain. And then at the top of a scene I said the flat wrong line. Everyone went off auto-pilot and navigated back to the meaning of the scene like tiny robots. It’s a bummer to finish a show for hundreds of clapping people, rip off your mic, and say, “I’m sorry everyone.” I went to the gym to run. I started thinking about my mistakes and realized they weren’t that bad. They only seemed bad because we’re all usually so polished. I do think I have entered a new phase of comedy since being here: the crisp professional, which does mean I will be harder on myself sometimes, but it also means I am doing better work.

Saturday night I like to have a lasagna roll at one of the sit-down restaurants before the “adult” improv show. It’s become a tradition. Entertainers are allowed to be seated between 8:30 and 9 PM. ZPill, MB, Folds, and I got flossy and arrived at 8:35. We were turned away. We walked to the opposite side of the ship and were told we should try the other place. Dejectedly, we went up to the buffet. A meat bonanza night. Ribs and pork chops and potatoes with bacon. I ate a lot of wilted lettuce smothered with balsamic and felt sorry for myself. EVEN THOUGH I still didn’t have to prepare or pay for my meal, I would have gladly done either to avoid the World’s Saddest Salad. But the four of us ate our grody little dinners in full performance attire while making jokes and truly enjoying each other’s company. Although it’s not possible to completely avoid annoyance with one another sometimes, we are a family.

My favorite part of the week is standing on the deck post-final show. The cool air refreshes me and the land in the distance tells me we’re close to port. Cell service. Freedom. Louisiana culture. We were in early this week, so my texts were sending around 11 PM. I was excited and promptly answered the bevy of SMS that flooded my phone. A dude with a mullet complimented me on the show and lingered a bit too long. I nicely ended the conversation and returned to The Internet. Ten minutes later he was back getting my drink order. No thanks, I said, and he sheepishly left. I hoped he didn’t feel too bad. But then he came back in ten minutes to ask if I wanted water. Nope. Ten minutes later he said I was stalking him. At this point I wanted to leave the public areas, but my phone would only work on the deck. Ten minutes later he said I shouldn’t be wearing my performance clothes if I don’t want people to notice me. Did I want to change in his room? I moved locations. He found me. He said we should do private improv for half an hour. I said no. He said he would bring Viagra. I told him firmly to leave me alone. He did.

But now I realized I was nearby a very interesting gang. The word “ghost” kept creeping in the air, so I asked, “Is this some kind of ghost conference?” Yeah, it actually was. 200 paranormal experts were onboard this week. I wish I had learned sooner! I asked a few questions. The clearly most famousy-like guy told a story about eating at a haunted diner that could never be found again and I was immediately grossed out by his ego. I honed in on a kind gal with blue hair who was happy to answer my questions and talk about her time as a spiritual investigator. MULLET GUY HAD THE NERVE TO CUT THROUGH A FLOCK OF PEOPLE TO TELL THEM WE WERE CLOSE AND WE’D BE LEAVING NOW. I publically told him I was uninterested in talking at all and the ladies gave him some Ew looks, so he slunk away. Blue hair and I exchanged info, but not before Mullet came back with his business card. I wanted to tear it up and throw it in the ocean, but I put it in my pocket because 1. Can’t litter in the ocean. 2. He’s still a passenger and I’m still an employee, and I can’t be rude to him despite his outright harassment. I’m just tired of being a woman for the moment.